Protein often steals the show in the world of sports nutrition. But without these muscle-supporting micronutrients, you’d be taking the daily struggle bus to the gym.
Did you know that muscle weakness and cramps are signs of vitamin D deficiency? That doesn’t mean a bad day at the gym = a deficiency, but it *does* point to the vital role this micronutrient plays in muscle health.
Research has also linked healthy vitamin D levels with stronger muscles and better posture.
Here’s how you can get more vitamin D:
In the world of micronutrients, vitamin A is a total all-star. It doesn’t directly strengthen your muscles, but it keeps your bones and immune system on point (no more calling in sick to the gym!).
Basically, if you’re not getting enough A, you’re not gonna perform your best barbell workouts at the power rack.
You can find vitamin A in lots of orange foods, including:
If you have cystic fibrosis or a gastrointestinal disorder that reduces nutrient absorption, you might need to take a vitamin A supplement. Still, you can get too much of this stuff, so talk with your doctor about dosage.
First things first: Iron is a mineral, not a vitamin. But that doesn’t mean your muscles don’t crave it!
When you lift weights, your body uses a lot of oxygen. Iron helps your body make hemoglobin, which shuttles oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. So basically, iron helps keep energy high, muscle pumped, and breath control on point.
Most folks get enough iron from their daily eats, including:
If you have anemia or don’t eat animal products, you might benefit from an iron supplement. Just talk with your doc about the ideal dosage since too much iron can have negative effects.
Vitamin C helps you absorb iron, which is a #win for your weightlifting sesh. Healthy iron levels = more power to pump the other kind of iron.
Vitamin C is also hella helpful for your immune system. Shortening the duration of a cold isn’t as sexy as a mid-workout surge of energy, but it’s still essential. Sniffles, a sore throat, and an achy head are major buzzkills when you’re trying to push yourself to complete one more round of reps.
Crushing your vitamin C quota is easy. You can find this vitamin in:
Most folks need 75 to 120 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day.
Vitamin E has a reputation for soothing and smoothing skin — but it can also indirectly support muscle growth.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant, a type of substance that helps you stay healthy by mopping up damaging free radicals that come from stress and overexertion, among other things.
But limited research suggests that taking vitamin E supplements can actually interfere with strength training gains, so stick to vitamin E-rich foods like nuts and roasted sunflower seeds.
The B-complex crew is a powerhouse for everything from brain function to stress hormone regulation. So, what can B vitamins do for muscle gains?
Well, science suggests vitamin B12 can dial down fatigue while offering a helping hand to hemoglobin (remember the oxygen transporter?). It’s a one-two punch for keeping your energy up while you pump iron.
But, as with other vitamins and minerals, the best way to get vitamin B12 is through food. Some options:
Like vitamin B12, biotin (aka vitamin B7) hails from the B-complex base. This bad boy helps transform the nutrients you eat into white-hot energy for your weight training session.
You can get biotin from foods like:
Many multivitamins and B-complex supplements also contain biotin. Sometimes biotin is sold as a “hair, skin, and nails” supplement too.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, about 50 percent of Americans don’t get enough magnesium. Adult males should aim for 400 mg of magnesium per day. Non-pregnant females need only 310 mg.
If you fall into the deficient camp, you might be undermining your muscle-building efforts. This tiny mineral plays a role in muscle contraction, heart rate regulation, and energy production.
The easiest way to boost your intake is to eat magnesium-rich foods like:
Of course, magnesium supplements are an option. Talk with a healthcare pro about the best option for you, since it comes in various forms.
You probably already know that calcium strengthens dem bones. But this mineral does so much more for muscle-pumping workouts, including:
- supporting muscle movement 💪
- keeping blood vessels in tip-top shape
- helping to regulate blood pressure
Contrary to what those “Got Milk?” dairy ads imply, you don’t need milk to quench your calcium needs. You can get your recommended daily 1,000 to 1,300 mg from foods like:
Calcium supplements are also an option if you need a boost beyond food, but get the A-OK from a healthcare pro first.
Research suggests that zinc plays a role in post-exercise skeletal muscle regeneration — in other words, it helps repair muscle fibers after a hard lifting session. We need more studies to understand precisely how zinc might maximize your workouts, but it’s an essential mineral either way.
Your body can’t make zinc, so the task of meeting zinc needs is left to you and your chompers. You can get it from a vast array of foods, such as:
While zinc deficiency is a thing, it’s rare. Over-zincing can cause toxicity, so talk with a healthcare pro before taking zinc supplements for muscle growth.
There’s a reason potassium is such a popular ingredient in sports drinks. This electrolyte keeps your muscles contracting properly and your hydration levels in the safe zone — both good things in terms of maxing out your swole stats.
Potassium can be found in lots of foods, but many Americans don’t get enough of it. You can hit your quota with foods like:
Talk with a healthcare pro if you think you need a supplement to get all the potassium your muscles need.